Published: Fri, April 13, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Alcohol guidelines in many countries may not be safe

Alcohol guidelines in many countries may not be safe

An analysis of over half a million drinkers suggests alcohol consumption should be limited to below 100g per week.

"Guideline developers tend to recognise that, in line with many other voluntary behaviours, drinkers are likely to be willing to accept some level of risk and have set guideline thresholds accordingly", she said.

The authors of the study said recommended alcohol limits should be lowered to around 100g or 12.5 units per week in many countries.

Consuming between 200-350g per week lowered life expectancy by one to two years, and more than 350g by up to five years.

The study said those who consume more than that increase their risk of stroke and heart failure and can expect to die sooner than those who drink less.

Analysis shows that approximately half of all drinkers go over the weekly recommended limit in the 19 high-income countries studied, while nearly one-in-ten people drink more than the equivalent of 21 pints of beer a week.

That's equivalent to 10 standard drinks, well below Australian guidelines advising adults to limit themselves to two standard drinks a day (20g alcohol) to reduce their lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

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An analysis of nearly 600,000 people found drinking around five 175ml glasses of wine or pints of beer every week could shorten a person's life by six months. The Lancet study, however, found no evidence to support different guidelines for women and men. "This study has shown that drinking alcohol at levels which were believed to be safe is actually linked with lower life expectancy and several adverse health outcomes", said Dr Dan Blazer, the report's co-author.

By contrast, alcohol consumption was associated with a somewhat lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks, they said - echoing previous research. None had a known history of cardiovascular disease.

"This study makes clear that on balance there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol, which is usually the case when things sound too good to be true", Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, who was not involved in the research said.

"The drinking levels recommended in this study will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol".

"What it shows is that the amount of alcohol consumed affects the risk of dying", says Yeap.

"Alcohol consumption is associated with a slightly lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious - and potentially fatal - cardiovascular diseases".

Drinkers who ignore United Kingdom alcohol consumption guidelines could be cutting years off their lives, according to new research.

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